The Fuzz

Yesterday we lost our beloved cat, The Fuzz, at the age of 21 years and 7 months:

The Fuzz, the awesomest cat ever!

The Fuzz, 2011

Born in June of 1991, he initially “belonged” to my next-door neighbor, a family renting one of the apartments in the complex. I first met him as a several-month-old kitten, past the fluffball stage but still quite young, sitting forlornly on the steps outside their apartment, waiting for someone to let him in. We made friends immediately – he was always a friendly, people-loving cat – and I started looking for him whenever I left the house.

It rapidly became apparent that my next-door neighbors were somewhat clueless about the finer points of owning a pet – like feeding it or giving it shelter. The adorable black kitten was often stuck outdoors, at all hours, so I set up a cardboard box outside my apartment for him, and lined it with towels to make it warmer and more inviting. When he started meowing piteously with hunger, I began feeding him as well. I spent many hours outside with him, petting and playing with him, but couldn’t invite him in because my housemate had an un-spayed female cat, and she (not unreasonably) refused to let him into the house unless he was neutered and vaccinated first. I couldn’t do that, unfortunately, because technically he wasn’t my cat, but theirs.

Nonetheless, I loved spending time with him, and he ran up to play whenever he saw me. We had a lot of fun together.

Which made it all the more heartbreaking when my neighbors were evicted, and moved elsewhere, taking the kitten with them. I knew they’d neglect him, but had no leg to stand on – either legally, since he was their cat – or practically, since they had taken them with him. I saw the mother and offered to buy him, but the mother refused, saying her little girl was fond of him. I insisted on giving her my phone number, in case she changed her mind.

Three agonizing days later, the mother called me. “I know I said I wasn’t interested in giving him up…but how much would you give me for him?”

“Fifty dollars?” I said. It seemed a paltry sum for such a wonderful kitty, but it shocked her. “Fifty dollars?” she said? Fifteen minutes later, there was a knock on my door, and the black kitten was mine. I got him vaccinated, neutered, and moved into my apartment that same day. I was completely smitten.

The Fuzz was never the brightest of cats, perhaps because of early neglect, but what he lacked in brains he made up in personality. He loved people, and was an attention sponge of the best kind. He would stubbornly jump up into my lap, repeatedly, until I finally caved in and gave him the petting he so clearly deserved. When friends came over, he would stroll over to say hello, rubbing his head against them until they petted him, at which point he would break into a loud, cement-mixer purr.

He had his faults, of course. He loved chewing on cables of all kinds, and I rapidly learned not to leave headphone cables or power cords lying about. Once, to my great embarrassment, he chewed through the phone cord while I was talking on the phone, and I had to explain to my friend that no, I didn’t hang up on him, the cat chewed through the phone cord! (Yeah, like he believed that.) During the two years that he lived with my brother and sister-in-law, he chewed through the power cord for a chest freezer, even though they had slathered it with hot pepper sauce in an attempt to keep him away. Amazingly, he did not get electrocuted – a clear sign that the gods were looking out for him.

He also loved chewing on plants. It didn’t matter what kind of plant it was – if it was green, he ate it. I had had many houseplants, but after a week or two I moved them outside or gave them away. I didn’t mind, though – it was just part of having The Fuzz.

The Fuzz was happy as an only cat for four years, but when I adopted Sweetheart, he good-naturedly accepted her and the two were soon inseparable. When Mike moved in with me, The Fuzz accepted him as well, and eventually adopted Mike as his special human, following him around the apartment, snuggling up to him at night, and spending long hours in his lap.

When the Fuzz was thirteen or fourteen, he began mysteriously losing weight, throwing up on the floor more and more frequently. We took him to the vet, but with no conclusive results. Finally, when he was sixteen, he sank into a near-coma – we couldn’t even get him to drink tuna water, one of his favorite treats – and we rushed him to the vet. He spent several days in the ICU, and I cried my eyes out, not expecting to see him again. (When a sixteen-year-old cat goes into intensive care, the odds of recovery aren’t good!)

Remarkably, he improved in the ICU, and after ultrasound and a biopsy, we finally had a diagnosis: irritable bowel disease. The vet prescribed prednisone, a liquid prep once a day, and we learned how to medicate him. Mike did some research, and discovered that wheat gluten, a common ingredient in cat food, could cause flare-ups of IBD. We put him on a gluten-free diet, and he stopped throwing up as frequently.

But he continued losing weight – irritable bowel disease is a wasting disease – and despite our best efforts, became progressively thinner. His wonderful personality didn’t change, but he became less active, more inclined to snooze the day away. As he aged – and he lived an astonishingly long time – his legs got stiffer, and he became painfully thin. Finally, after a final flare-up of the irritable bowel disease, it became plain that he was not going to recover, and it was time to say goodbye. We took him to the vet one last time, and he passed away peacefully in our arms.

Few cats live as long as The Fuzz did, and none were more loved. We asked for him to be cremated, and will scatter his ashes in the rose garden with Sweetheart’s, so the two can play together for all time.

It was time to say goodbye, but we’ll miss him.

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12 Comments

  1. Dawn Sare
    Posted February 3, 2013 at 10:15 pm | Permalink

    Dear Tien,

    I am so sorry to hear of your loss.  A kitty you have had that long is a very special part of your life.

    We have two cats, siblings, who are about 17 now.  So far they are in good health, but I dread losing them.  Do you still have Sweetheart to give you some comfort?  If not, as soon as you are ready, get yourself a kitten or two.  There are so many needing homes.  I am sure such a friendly cat as The Fuzz would want you to continue to have fun and love as you had with him.

    Dawn (from the Asilomar design workshop)

  2. Sharon
    Posted February 4, 2013 at 5:05 am | Permalink

    Tien and Mike, so sorry to hear of your loss.  You have given him such good care for so long. And he has returned so much love.

  3. Dena
    Posted February 4, 2013 at 6:04 am | Permalink

    I’m so sorry, Tien. Clearly The Fuzz lived so long as a result of your love.

  4. Ann D
    Posted February 4, 2013 at 6:13 am | Permalink

    That’s an amazingly long life for a cat–but it’s never long enough.  The little fuzzballs get into your soul.  

  5. Sandra
    Posted February 4, 2013 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    Sorry to hear about The Fuzz. We lost our older cat Tim last week to intestinal cancer, so I know how you feel. I’m sure he and Sweetheart will be happy together in the big lap in the sky.

  6. HelzHart
    Posted February 4, 2013 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    Dear Tien, You have a very compassionate (sp?) heart.  I loved our cat who lived just over 13 years and then we adopted an adult female because her owner died.  Patches was a love and we did all we could for her and she lived to be 20.  So very sorry for your loss, but you gave your cat a wonderful life and he lived much longer because you cared. 

  7. A WhizGidget
    Posted February 4, 2013 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    Tien,
    I’m so sorry to hear of your loss of The Fuzz.  You were an excellent hooman for your kitty, and I’m sure he loved you beyond words and expression.  You, Mike, and The Fuzz are in my thoughts… 
    -Ann-

  8. Amy Norris
    Posted February 4, 2013 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    Oh, Tien.  I’m so sorry to hear about The Fuzz.  Heartbreaking, no matter why and when.  I’m still reeling from losing Ms. Percy last week (19 yrs 9 mos).  So glad you were able to give him such a long and joyous life, and that you and Mike enjoyed his unique personality.  May the pain fade soon, leaving you with only good memories.

  9. Posted February 4, 2013 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    So sorry for your loss. The hardest part of opening our hearts to our furry children is that they leave our lives too soon.  He was a lucky cat to have chosen you and Mike.

  10. terri
    Posted February 4, 2013 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    so sorry to hear about the fuzz–but this tribute will help to keep his memory alive…

  11. Lisa Kerpoe
    Posted February 6, 2013 at 5:20 am | Permalink

    He’s beautiful! He was very lucky to have you in his life all those years. You probably feel the same.  I’m sorry for your loss.

  12. Basicallybenita
    Posted February 6, 2013 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    I just read about your losing The Fuzz.  Our Neil lived 16 and a half years, and I thought that was a long time.  So happy that you had him in your life for all those years.  What a joy he must have been.  I am thinking of you though because it’s amazing how a small cat can fill a place.  :)

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